Intelligent mobility in London - do we have a choice?

Nathan Marsh | 10 Mar 2017 | Comments

With the demands of London constantly changing as it continues its evolution as an iconic, attractive, diverse and inclusive global city, how can it continue to ensure its core physical and digital connectivity, both between and within London, remains attractive?

Traditionally, the city’s connectivity has been based on a predominantly physical and modal transport network, with a digital network applied around existing physical infrastructure only recently. While this has created some flexibility in how the network can respond to newer, digitally based services, there are some fixed constraints to the existing physical network that have had to be worked around.

With the capital’s population set to reach 12 million by 2050 an enhanced transport network is essential, but improving the physical aspects will take time and investment. This has to happen, but in order to make London’s transport infrastructure fit for future purpose we need both the physical and the digital elements in place. If configured smartly, these can be mutually supportive and additive.

This is where London can be a global leader in Intelligent mobility, one of the areas we suggested as a key focus for the capital in our response to Sadiq Khan’s London Plan.

A core principle of intelligent mobility is to spot, align and leverage benefits of each improvement project and increase the extent to which they are additive or benefiting of cities, towns and users. For London the question isn’t, “Can London take a more intelligent approach to mobility,” but, “Can London afford not to embrace intelligent mobility, as it finds itself both causing and being impacted by some profound changes?” – changes that include demographic change, the need to improve air quality, ease congestion and meet the housing demand.

In order for London to remain globally competitive, it’s key that infrastructure investments deliver maximised benefits.  Intelligent mobility can help address this challenge and unlock London’s next wave of potential.

Will we ever see a single ‘intelligent mobility programme’ set up and run by the Greater London Authority or Transport for London?  It’s unlikely as we would need to wait for the appropriate conditions (like a single, mega data platform), substantial funding and extensive planning. A more agile approach is already being taken and if we look around we can already see intelligent mobility solutions in action, in London, now.

This includes initiatives such as Greenwich’s GATEway CAV (Connected Autonomous Vehicles) pilot; the innovation in automation by Volvo, Uber and others; the changes in approaches to digital and account based ticketing across Oyster (with handheld device and bank card functionality); Electric Vehicles (EVs) being implemented across the bus network (improving air quality); new approaches to vehicle charging (helping address congestion and air quality); plans for 5G roll out and innovation in promoting flexible working patterns (to help manage peak loading on the physical and digital transport network). 

These, and other similar projects, are and will continue to bring real improvements for the people of London, in all aspects of their lives. They are only a snapshot of current initiatives, so if we stand back and look at where we are, we should be encouraged and excited by the progress made, and the conditions and culture being created through these types of projects. London is ready and hungry for this kind of innovation.

It’s these intelligent mobility projects, within an intelligent mobility framework, that can go a long way towards unlocking the next generation of London’s potential and make it an ever more attractive, inclusive, sustainable and diverse city – a London enabled by intelligent mobility is a force for good not only for our capital, but for the progress of all cities.  

Read Atkins’ full response to Sadiq Khan’s ‘A Better City For All Londoners’ here.

To find out more about intelligent mobility from Atkins, visit our hub.